Demonstrators Protest Possible Legislation Protecting Berlusconi from Prosecution

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe Desk

ROME, Italy – On Saturday, tens of thousands of Italians gathered to demonstrate against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and his perceived attempts to evade prosecution. Legislation is currently being discussed in the Italian Parliament which would, in effect, prevent Berlusconi from going to trial. Protesters, accusing the Italian Prime Minister of seeking to undermine the legal system, marched through the streets carrying banners reading: “Enough, the law is the same for everyone.”

Demonstrators at a rally against Berlusconi on February 27, 2010. The sign reads: Berlusconi - small man, big corruptor. [Source: AP]

Berlusconi, on trial in two corruption cases, says that he is the victim of political persecution, and has recently compared the judiciary to the Taliban. On Friday, he said to a crowd in Turin: “If the prosecutors don’t like a law then they challenge it and it gets rejected by the courts…we are in the hands of this band of Taliban.”

The Italian National Association of Magistrates responded by condemning Berlusconi’s speech as “an intolerable escalation of insults and aggression.”

Angelo Bonelli, head of the Italian Green Party, said: “We are starved of legality…today, the real Taliban is Berlusconi who wants to tie the hands of the magistrates.”

Berlusconi, a former media tycoon, is currently on trial for allegedly paying British attorney David Mills $600,000 to provide false testimony during the 1990’s, and for alleged tax fraud. Mills was Berlusconi’s former tax attorney. On Thursday the Supreme Court in Rome ruled that even though Mills was found guilty last year of taking the bribe and sentenced to four and a half years in prison, the case should be dropped because it had timed out under the ten year statute of limitations.

On Saturday, a court in Milan adjourned Berlusconi’s trial until March 26. Berlusconi’s attorneys requested that the trial be suspended further until details on the Mills ruling were published. It is customary for Italian courts to delay publishing such judgements until two or three months after the cases are finished. The judges refused to delay further, saying: “the trial cannot be suspended for an undetermined amount of time.”

Italian law places a ten-year limit for prosecution of judiciary corruption crimes. The terms for Berlusconi’s trial are set to expire in early 2011.

For more information, please see:

AP – Berlusconi trial adjourned for a month – 27 February 2010

BBC – Silvio Berlusconi ‘avoiding justice’, demonstrators say – 27 February 2010

Telegraph – Court Insists Silvio Berlusconi’s bribery trial continue next month – 27 February 2010

BBC – Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi attacks ‘Taliban’ judiciary – 26 February 2010